“I am not for everyone, and that is okay.”
Those are strong words coming from a small business owner, especially in an ever-evolving and uber-competitive market. When you look at the data-- 80% of small businesses failing in the first year, another 50% in the second year, 40% in the third year, and so on-- it's a natural inclination to accept any business that comes your way, under the assumption that this will ultimately help it succeed.
Now consider how your business shows up for everyone: internet searches, website, social media, and the ever-important, review! A whopping 92% of consumers read online reviews (on Google and Yelp, for example) before planning to purchase from or engage with a business. In today’s “cancel culture,” social media and negative reviews can be a huge influence on your image and brand.
If all of this sounds stressful, that’s because it is. And it can easily lead to a scarcity-based “I will take whatever business I can get” mindset, which comes with it, the pressure for your business to be everything for everyone, all the time. But what if you rejected that idea? What if you embraced the notion that you aren’t for everyone?
Let’s get back to the original statement: I am not for everyone, and that is okay.
What does this mean? I am the owner of a talent agency, placing kids and adults in commercials, print campaigns, film, and television shows. In other words, I am a dream maker. (Believe me, I understand the full responsibility of what this means.) When we take on talent, we are only paid if they are paid. This means that time management is directly related to productivity and income. This would be true for any job based on commissions, sales, or bonuses. Our biggest job cost is actually how we spend our time.
A small business is a delicate ecosystem, and any change-- like a new client, for instance-- can throw it off balance. Some clients can be high-maintenance; some may ask for discounts or extra services; still others may simply be a bad fit for your business. You are better off focusing on clients who value your services and are willing to pay for them, rather than trying to accommodate every request that comes your way. Your time and energy are better spent on building relationships with clients who value what you do and recognize the impact it can have. When it comes to the ones that don’t, in my opinion, it’s best to end those as quickly as possible. If you run your business in an ethical manner and release bad relationships professionally, you may struggle with a negative review or social media posts in the short term, but if you continue to show up positively (in your community, for your good clients, and within your industry), you should not have any long-lasting impacts from this type of negative review. You will also get better at spotting an ill-fitting professional relationship and avoid engagement from the start, which will lead to less frustration, wasted time, and/or hurt feelings down the road.
In my personal experience, a bad business relationship does awful things to my psyche. In the past, it has led to feelings of self-doubt and loss of confidence-- feelings that you can carry into your personal life with family and friends. In extreme cases, it can even lead to depression or anxiety (I have been there, especially during the pandemic, when so much of our future was unknown). That's why it's so important to be selective about the clients you work with. It's not just about the bottom line; it's about your own well-being as a business owner.
But beyond your well-being, it’s about your delicate business ecosystem as well. As a business owner, it is ultimately your responsibility to manage your brand’s image. As someone once told me: “Protect Your Brand!” I have this in the back of my mind every single day. Every person who works with you will be a direct reflection of you and your business, whether we like it or not. If we work with the wrong people (the ones who don’t value our work or take advantage of us), their perspectives will be the ones that are shared. On the upside, working with ideal clients and having people in your industry speak positively about your business can be invaluable and pave the way to referrals, new opportunities, and even greater success.
Focus on good clients. This frees up so much time and energy for the quality of your work, the growth strategies you can initiate, and the positive impact you can create within your organization. For me, it has also created the ability to get involved in industry organizations, charity work, and much more-- which have opened the door to so many surprising collaborations and more new opportunities for my team.
You are not for everyone, and that is okay. Embrace this mindset, and watch as your life and business evolve for the better!